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While Global Biodiversity Negotiations are Delayed, New Pandemic Report Underscores Need for Major Progress in Nature Conservation

A timely new report by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) asserts that preventing future pandemics before they emerge requires targeted action to address the underlying causes of pandemics--which  are the same global environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss and climate change.

Today, leaders from 190 countries were scheduled to gather in Kunming, China for final negotiations on a biodiversity treaty designed to address the world’s urgent extinction crises. Instead, these leaders are at home, battling the spread of a zoonotic disease that likely emerged from deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats. 

A timely new report by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) asserts that preventing future pandemics before they emerge requires targeted action to address the underlying causes of pandemics–which  are the same global environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss and climate change.  Among the solutions the report lays out is the conservation of critical areas for biodiversity,  the financing of this protection,  and the design of a green economic recovery from COVID-19–which offers “an insurance against future outbreaks.”

This IPBES report reiterates the importance of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, an intergovernmental body made up of countries that have committed to protecting at least 30% of the planet’s lands and seas by 2030. The coalition, led by France and Costa Rica, is driving forward this ambitious target as a key element of the treaty to be agreed on next year in China. The High Ambition Coalition now has over 30 members including Canada, the United Kingdom, The European Commission, Nigeria, Gabon, Ethiopia, Colombia, Peru, Mozambique, Switzerland and Pakistan. Recently, the UN Secretary-General, HRH Prince Charles and Christiana Figueres also announced support for this ambitious target.

The Campaign for Nature has issued the following statements:

Director of Campaign for Nature, Brian O’Donnell said: 

“The biodiversity summit may be postponed, but we can’t afford to delay efforts to end the extinction crisis. Fortunately, world leaders in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and North America aren’t waiting. From Canada to the European Union, we’re seeing an upswell in pledges to protect at least 30 percent of the world’s land and seas by 2030. These leaders know that acting boldly on nature now will lead to overlapping benefits: helping to prevent future pandemics, maintaining sources of medicines, addressing the dual existential crises of biodiversity loss and climate change all while providing economic benefits to communities around the world.”

“We know that financing biodiversity pays off and that nature conservation drives economic growth. A recent analysis by 100 economists and scientists show the benefits of protected areas outweigh costs 5-to-1.”

Enric Sala, Explorer in Residence, National Geographic and the author of the recently published book The Nature of Nature, Why We Need the Wild.

“The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of the intertwining complexity of Life on Earth. Everything we need to survive — the oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, the clean water we drink — it’s produced by the work of other species. But with the breakdown of nature, we face a mass extinction of these species. Next year, governments have an opportunity to put in place a global agreement on stopping this ecological crisis and protect our future and health. The most expensive thing we can do is return to business as usual. As governments begin their recovery planning they should recognize nature conservation as a driver of economic growth and a key sector of a resilient global economy. We need to ensure that funding for recovery plans goes into protecting nature so we can save it, but ultimately so we can save ourselves.”

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